A-OK in Oklahoma: Tulsa, Okla

A-OK in Oklahoma: Tulsa, Okla

Kevin Beck

With a population of 400,000, Tulsa is one of the largest Sportstowns selected in 2003. The city’s vision statement is: “Tulsa will continue to be a dynamic city of the past, present and future committed to being an ever-increasingly desirable community in which to live, work and play.” In that spirit, the Tulsa Parks and Recreation Department, with an annual budget of $24 million, 281 full-time employees, and 208 part-time employees, capably serves the needs of a large community.

Tulsa Parks manages 140 parks covering some 6,000 acres, including two 36-hole golf courses, 22 swimming pools, 202 sports fields (63 of which are maintained as game fields), 92 playgrounds, 116 tennis courts, 26 water playgrounds, 20 community centers, the River SkatePark, the Tulsa Zoo, and more than 30 miles of recreation trails. Not surprisingly, programs are available to citizens of every age, area of interest and ability level.

The department sponsors literally dozens of leagues in every season of the year, both youth and adult, such as competitive swimming, T-ball, basketball, flag football, volleyball, tennis, gymnastics and more. Sports and fitness at community centers include everything from aerobics to disc golf to Tae Kwon Do to tennis lessons. Tulsa Parks has lighted and unlighted ball fields and tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, gyms, basketball courts, a skatepark and fishing piers.

The philosophy of all Tulsa Parks sports programs is to provide an opportunity for skill improvement, sportsmanship, physical fitness and fellowship, with youth sports programs designed to bring kids closer together through positive recreational competition and to keep their safety and welfare first and foremost. But with a wealth of programs available, competitive leagues are offered in a tremendous variety of sports and disciplines, and not just for kids. For example, for the past 16 years, Tulsa Parks has hosted the Oklahoma Senior Olympics, a seven-day sports competition for men and women ages 50 and older. In 1987, 88 seniors participated in the first state games; by 2002, the number of athletes competing had reached 600.

Six community centers offer basic fundamental sports skills designed to introduce kids ages 3-5 to a specific sport activity. More than 35 four-week sessions are offered in both the spring and the fall; these classes incorporate the parents as coaches, who play alongside their children to encourage them and keep them on task. Age-appropriate sports skills are offered in basketball, soccer, T-ball and football. In addition, American Red Cross-certified swimming lessons for all ages and skill levels are offered at pools across the city during the summer.

Since 1994, Tulsa Parks has required that all individuals coaching sports for youth 16 and younger, and who use park facilities for games, be certified to coach through the Park and Recreation Department. Tulsa Parks uses the NYSCA certification program, including signing the Coaches Code of Ethics Pledge, which espouses sportsmanship, respect and fair play. The certification requirement affects all youth coaches who coach in programs by the city of Tulsa Park and Recreation Department Board-recognized sports organizations.

Tulsa Parks takes great pride in exceeding state and national standards in aquatics and sports safety. Its stringent policies and procedures assure all participants a safe environment in which to play. Amazingly, Tulsa Parks has never had a life threatening injury in service to many thousands of youth and adults in its sports programs. The department requires that Tulsa Parks staff certified in first aid and CPR make random and periodic on-site practice and game checks for both youth and adult leagues; youth coaches are encouraged to receive certification in adult and child CPR and sport safety training, which includes preventing, preparing for and caring for sport related emergencies. All youth coaches are given a first aid kit and are required to take it to every game. Finally, in the interest of general safety, Tulsa Parks recruits, screens and trams all sports volunteers. Individual volunteers are subject to background checks handled by the Tulsa Police Department.

As a result of this and a host of other positive contributions to the community, Tulsa Parks has received several national awards for high-quality sports programs over the past few years, including the 2000 NYSCA Award of Excellence, the 2001 NYSCA Outstanding Youth Sport Leader (Lean Crawley), the 1999 NYSCA Chapter of Excellence Award and the 1998 NYSCA Chapter Director of the Year (also awarded to Crawley).

COPYRIGHT 2003 National Recreation and Park Association

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group